The characters of Inuyasha remain the property of Rumiko Takahashi. And not me.

Summary: One shot, little happy-ending story, as requested by Killing Perfection. Well, actually it turned out not so little... I have a nasty habit of embellishing everything.

Japanese vocabulary: -sama : respectful title, a little like "lord" Gomen-nasai : sorry as in "I'm sorry" hai : yes houki : demon energy aura Kami : deity Youkai : Demon Tsubuku : To be continued (I think) Owari : end

Warmth: Chapter 1 ----------------------

One of the landmarks of Sesshoumaru's life with Rin was the first time she was sick. It wasn't anything too serious, just a cold, but it was important for them both, none the less. So, if we look to that frosty hill over there, you can see Lord Sesshoumaru walking with Rin, the day before she becomes sick.

"Jaken-sama, come play with me."

Rin runs circles around him and giggles happily. She's especially happy today in her nice new warm clothes. From top to toe she's rugged up in thick, warm, sturdy cloth, her outer coat quilted and puffy. Her face is framed by a hood and she's even wearing neat little closed shoes. She looks absolutely cute as a button with her cheeks rosy and her eyes sparkling with happiness. Too cute even for Jaken, so he sounds half-hearted as he scolds her.

"Slow down child!! We have many more miles to walk today, thanks to your weakness."

Only yesterday Sesshoumaru had flown with Rin and found out that the biting cold of winter chilled her too much. Rin's poor eyes had watered terribly from the frost gusts caused by their speed, and her cheeks and hands became chilled and wind-bitten. When they landed, Sesshoumaru sent Jaken scampering to make a fire while he himself held Rin in his lap, warming her face and hands with his own. As he gently wiped the tears from her face with the sleeve of his ornate robe, one could almost call him tender, in spite of his stern expression and words: "You will tell me when you are hurt or unwell. Do you understand?" Sesshoumaru had ignored the fact that Rin answered him smiling.

"An-un carry Rin if Rin gets tired. Ah-un won't mind, will you Ah-un?"

Rin runs over and pats the demon animal, which responds with a happy lowing. Rin grins and walks beside Ah-un for a while. She is in fact still a little tired from her bout in the cold yesterday, and so she is content to walk quietly for a while.

Her sporadic chatter, giggles and arguments with Jaken are the only things to break up the day. All is quiet, and uneventful. The land lies still and silent under the first snow of Winter.. and due to Sesshoumaru's presence. In fact, the number of human lives spared merely by the random passing of Sesshoumaru is truly astounding.

They make good time this day, with Rin walking or riding Ah-un. The day ends, the sun setting early, colouring the snow as it fades through a series of russet hues. And so, in the chill of the brief twilight, they set up camp for the night. Rin is very tired, and barely stays awake long enough to eat before falling asleep against Sesshoumaru's side. As always, this show of complete trust both comforts and confuses Sesshoumaru. And a confused Sesshoumaru is a very angry Sesshoumaru. But, Sesshoumaru is a Youkai, and anger is a driving force of his existence. He long ago learnt to control and channel his anger. Lately he has been needing a new source of anger to fuel his strength: his rage against his half-brother is beginning to grow stale and lifeless. The Tenseiga... does not seem so insulting a gift anymore.

Sesshoumaru gazes at Rin, seemingly impassively. He notices that something is not quite right with her, her scent is a little off, and her sleep is troubled. He will have to keep a close eye on her, not that he doesn't already.

Morning dawns late, and Rin isn't herself at all. Instead of happily waking to greet the new day she is sluggish, and doesn't want to leave Sesshoumaru's side. She seems to be having trouble breathing through her nose and she squinches her face up. Jaken stops scolding her long enough to watch her sneeze. Sesshoumaru is leaning down to examine her closely, and is caught off guard when she sneezes on him. All three of them look utterly shocked. Rin is the first to recover and manages to wipe her nose on her sleeve before saying:

"Gomen-nasai Sesshoumaru-sama, Rin is sick."

Sesshoumaru takes this news fairly calmly.

"Yes, I can see that, Rin."

Jaken on the other hand, starts ranting and raving about rudeness and the weakness of humans and how Rin is troubling Sesshoumaru-sama. As Jaken's topics change to medicines and the location of nearby villages Sesshoumaru takes Rin temperature. She's too warm, and she definitely smells sick. He is worried, what if she gets worse? He's never had to deal with human sickness very closely before. If fact, Sesshoumaru feels just as worried as Jaken sounds. But it's not in his nature to jump up and down shouting, and only a small hesitation before speaking shows his unease.

"Jaken, shut up."

"Yes, Sesshoumaru-sama."

Rin smiles and struggles to her feet. Sesshoumaru and Jaken seem to think she'll break at any moment, like fine glass. They are jolted into stillness by her sudden movement.

"Rin is ok. Rin has been sick before and got better all by herself."

She nods to emphasise her words, and then sniffs noisily. Sesshoumaru, not knowing any better solution, leaves it at that and stands, ordering Jaken to make breakfast for Rin. Afterwards, they quickly get ready to leave. Sesshoumaru scoops Rin up and plops her down on Ah-un's back.

"Today you will not run around."

"Hai, Sesshoumaru-sama."

Rin is more than happy to agree, as her cold is bad enough to sap her strength. Today is nowhere near as peaceful as yesterday, though it is even quieter. Rin's silence is putting Jaken and Sesshoumaru on edge, it feels so wrong after Rin's normal happy bubbling, it's as though they are in enemy territory. Towards the end of the day, the silence is broken by Rin's coughing. She's obviously getting worse. When Sesshoumaru goes to check on her, she smiles at him, but has nothing to say. Sesshoumaru's tension makes his houki flare.

"We spend tonight in shelter. Jaken, this way."

Sesshoumaru points up a small valley, where he knows there is a small cave, nothing more than a rocky scoop under a cliff, but it is shelter, and a wind is picking up towards nightfall, bringing with it flurries of snow. They reach the cave at dusk and Sesshoumaru carefully senses whether there are any demons or spirits in the area to cause trouble. There aren't. With an Angry Sesshoumaru in the area, everything has fled, or hidden itself beyond sensing. Including animals. Looks like Rin is eating travel rations tonight. If she feels like eating at all.

Normally, Sesshoumaru refrains from initiating any intimacy with Rin. But there is no time for that now. Efficiency is required, and so Rin is carried into the shelter of the cave as soon as Ah-un plods up outside it.

Jaken quickly scampers around setting up a fire and unpacking food and blankets for Rin. In a few minutes Rin is snugly bundled in soft blankets by a crackling fire, looking quite content despite her stuffy nose. Sesshoumaru stands still and watches her as Jaken makes some strong green tea as a medicine. But Sesshoumaru is anything but calm. Rin's sickness is bringing to the fore his running argument with himself about what he thinks of Rin, and whether he truly cares for her. The world must never see this weakness that he has for the little girl. But can he even admit to himself that she is his weakness? Once he accepts that, he must accept her. Not that he hasn't already. What must he do to once more attain the self assurance he had such a short time ago? Before she wormed her way into his heart. He does not know, and it angers him.

Slowly and deliberately he paces the cave's entrance, his impassive face made dangerous by the flickering shadows, looking for all the world like a caged animal. Never has anything been so bold as this virus, hurting his property right before his eyes. He will not admit to himself his worry. His ambivalent feelings towards Rin are warring within him. Is he so weak as to be scared over this pathetic little human sickness? He barely refrains from an enraged roar at the injustice of his situation, his inability to strike down this illness that affronts him.

Sesshoumaru's energy flares, practically scorching the air with its intensity. Here stands a Great Demon Lord at the height of his power. No one can look upon this vision of strength and be unawed. Rin and Jaken have become deathly still and silent, stunned into immobility. Then those few seconds of burningly intense power pass, and once again, Sesshoumaru's face has only impassivity, his strength shown through his grace and not raw power.

Presently, Sesshoumaru stops pacing to stare at Rin as he thinks. Her condition is so bad, he is even thinking of going to one of those villages Jaken mentioned for medicine. His heart suffers as he watches her latest bout of uncontrollable coughing. And so Sesshoumaru swiftly turns away, intending to remove the source of his distress from his sight so that he can think.

"no, wait..."

He is brought up short however, when he hears a weak cry from Rin. He turns to see her struggling to untangle herself from the blankets and follow him. Having watched his growing agitation, no, his growing FURY, she is deathly frightened that she's become too much of a burden, and Sesshoumaru would rather leave her here than care for her in her sickness. In her eyes is the fear of one doomed to abandonment. Weakly she struggles, trying to make it seem that she's not made frail by illness, that she isn't any trouble. That she isn't a 'pathetic and despised human' unworthy of the Great Lord Sesshoumaru's care. She knows that she can't lie to him, that she isn't well, that she cannot ask anything more from the one she owes her life to. But to the end of her strength she is fighting to keep her beloved Sesshoumaru-sama, and what little strength it is. Kami, she's so small.

In a mere moment, Sesshoumaru sees Rin's fear, tears in her eyes because she is afraid that he will abandon her. Instantly, his internal struggles are swept away. In their place comes pure protective instinct. In a second he is by her side, gently helping her into his lap and settling her blankets around her again. Rin immediately grabs hold of Sesshoumaru's sleeve with her one free arm, grateful for the presence of the person she fears losing. Sesshoumaru sits cross-legged, the circle of his legs becoming a nest in which Rin is snuggled.

"Jaken. Go to the nearest village and get medicine. If you cause any fuss and delay your return you will be sorely regretful. There will be no other reason for delay."

Indeed, with Sesshoumaru's earlier anger-fuelled display of power, nothing will stir for hours within a hundred miles of here.

"Yes, Sesshoumaru-sama."

Jaken unbends himself from his frozen immobility and scampers out of the cave, leaving the green tea forgotten. He can see that now is no time for discussion, and he swiftly enters the cold snowy darkness that lies beyond the fire's light without complaint or hesitation. Once he is gone, Sesshoumaru indulges himself in a rare display of tenderness, soothing Rin with his touch as he tucks her in against his body securely. Sesshoumaru is here for her, cares for her. Rin, weak with sickness, can only show her utter relief with tears, which Sesshoumaru gently wipes away.

"Rin..."

Sesshoumaru's voice is uncharacteristically gentle.

"Yes, Sesshoumaru-sama?" Rin croaks quietly.

"You belong to me."

"Yes, Sesshoumaru-sama."

"And I will never leave you."

Rin is speechless, but nods to show her understanding as she clutches at his clothing. Sesshoumaru gently brushes hair away from Rin's face, taking great care not to harm her with his talons. Somehow, he had never noticed before that his great power could hinder him so much. Even a simple caress was dangerous. Suddenly disdainful of his battle-ready guise, Sesshoumaru carefully removes his armour and weapons, and brings his soft white tail down to warm and cushion Rin.

"You should sleep."

Rin smiles as she lets her eyes slip shut. Soon her laboured breathing evens out, and she is asleep under Sesshoumaru's watchful protection. Far away from this little circle of warmth and protection, out in the cold snow, Jaken trudges on towards the village, the cold silencing his usual string of melodramatic complaints.

--- Tsubuku

That's the end of part one, part two will be coming soon. Please tell me what you think of this story. And if I've missed any mistakes I'd like you to point them out so I can fix them.